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Korean pro-baseball fan gets hero’s welcome in Kansas City

Lee Sung-woo, a 38-year-old South Korean office worker, has become an online sensation after visiting Kansas City in the U.S. at the invitation of its pro baseball team the Royals early this month.

He was given a hero’s welcome in the city and drew a great deal of attention from citizens and Royals’ officials, players and fans.

The club invited him as he has been an ardent fan of the Royals for nearly two decades despite having no connection with the U.S. pro baseball team or the city.
Lee Sung-woo reacts as he arrives at Kansas City International Airport on Aug. 5. (AP)
Lee Sung-woo reacts as he arrives at Kansas City International Airport on Aug. 5. (AP)

Lee had never set foot in America until recently. And the Royals had not had strong showings since winning the World Series in 1985.

However, Lee has been a Royals fan for 17 years, ever since he saw former first baseman Jeff King hit a home run on TV and was impressed by the beauty of Kauffman Stadium.

Without media coverage about the Royals in Korea, his only connection to the team was through short video clips on the Internet or the city’s news websites.

Lee then decided to create a Twitter account to interact with fellow Royals fans and they encouraged him to fly over and watch the team play.

Lee finally traveled halfway around the world to visit Kansas City on Aug. 6. The news media and Royals fans treated the globe-hopping fan as if he was a celebrity during his visit. He was given a chance to throw the first pitch at two Royals games, appeared on TV shows and was interviewed by a slew of news outlets.

Oddly enough, the long-frustrated Royals won eight games straight and moved into first place in the American League Central division during Lee’s time in Kansas City.

After an event-packed 10-day visit, Lee returned to South Korea on Aug. 15.

By Ock Hyun-ju (